Even if you fancy yourself a Scotch whisky purist, you won’t be able to resist the delicious range of cocktails being made with the island country’s greatest export. From Tiki tipples to a tasty riff on the classic Penicillin, these are the 10 best scotch cocktails to drink in bars now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great scotch cocktails? Try making the Kiwi Bird from this list at home.
Bar manager Carlo Caroscio (who spent six years at chef Bryan Voltaggio’s flagship fine-dining restaurant Volt) keeps things relaxed but never dumbed-down. Bartender Joseph Habib’s Kiwi Bird arrives on a tray of ice with a cute kiwi bird gazing into a barrel glass. Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend scotch is bolstered by Broken Shed vodka, then goes tart and lush with kiwi, coconut cream, lime and orange bitters.
Despite the challenge in finding it (hidden in an alley behind the Halcyon hotel), B&GC is one of Denver’s best bars. The retro basement space is soothing and seductive; the bar staff skilled and friendly. The Salary Ma’am is a refreshing cocktail of Suntory Toki whisky and Naked Grouse scotch with floral, fruity and peppery notes from Rhine Hall pear eau-de-vie, elderflower tonic, rose and pink peppercorn.
Michelin-starred Mourad is one of the country’s great Moroccan restaurants, thanks to chef Mourad Lahlou’s inspired dishes. Bar manager J.P. Smith likewise takes cocktails down the artfully delicious route. The Tail of the Season features Monkey Shoulder scotch, Tempus Fugit Gran Classico bitter apéritif and fernet along with Badia di Morrona vin santo, which adds complex sweetness to the bitter-herbaceous flavors. Smoked salt cacao tincture, a spritz of Persian lime essence and black lime zest brighten up the finish.
Across the street from sister bar Rhum Corner, Jen Agg’s original Cocktail Bar serves the more creative drinks menu covering a range of spirits and grouped in categories like seasonal, easy drinking and contemporary. The irresistible Big in Japan features a house blend of scotch and shochu, gaining peaty nuance from Bowmore scotch, nutty, bright and silky with orgeat, lemon and sesame oil.
Pull up to Julep’s curved bar for oysters, boudin balls and some of Houston’s best cocktails since 2014. Alba Huerta and team welcome with laid-back elegance and bottled Manhattan cocktail service. Bartender Rachel Fisher tributes her grandfather with her Pappy's Pipe cocktail. Growing up visiting his farm, she recalls him smoking tobacco from a hollowed-out corn cob. Here, tobacco aromatics are mimicked by infusing rooibos tea in Mellow Corn whiskey with a few savory drops of black pepper tincture and smoky notes from a burnt scotch honey featuring Laphroaig 10-year-old scotch.
Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library has been drawing lines since 2013 for having the city’s largest American whiskey and scotch selection. Bartender Cody Mulcahy draws out summer memories with the Last Summer, a riff on a classic sherry cobbler. The peaty smoke of Ardbeg 10-year-old scotch plays nicely with dry amontillado sherry, peach purée and lemon juice, ranging from smoky to dry, nutty, tart, sweet and spiced.
Downtown Louisville’s subterranean Hell or High Water is a lush escape of wood, vintage radios, books and red velvet booths. Cozy up in a corner nook for drinks like the Fast Track, which amps up local bourbon with a peaty Islay scotch. The drink unfolds with layers of fruit (pear liqueur), pepper (black peppercorn), nuts (amaretto) and bitters spice.
Duke’s Spirited Cocktail Bar is a cocktail destination right smack in the middle of Sonoma wine country. The powerhouse team of Tara Heffernon, Steven Maduro, Laura Sanfilippo and Cappy Sorentino ensures excellent cocktails marry with a warm neighborhood welcome (and ongoing party). Sorentino’s Remedy plays off the modern classic Penicillin but drinks easy and refreshing with bright orange depth from Monkey Shoulder scotch, honey, ginger, turmeric, chamomile and lemon.
Adrift Tiki Bar is Denver’s Tiki temple, lined with murals, Tiki lamps, totem poles and cozy booths. Winter luaus brighten up chilly nights, as does poke, Kona pork sliders and a large rum selection. The Ku Ku Kachoo is that rarity of a delicious scotch Tiki cocktails. Blended scotch gets a hit of funk from Jamaican rum, then goes spicy, bitter, sweet and tart with layers of lychee, Angostura amaro, anise-honey liqueur, ginger and lemon.
Head to the Living Room in the lobby of Charleston’s midcentury temple, The Dewberry, for Ryan Casey’s elegant drinks. The Mary Queen of Scots centers around Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend scotch, a play off a classic Blood & Sand cocktail. But instead of too-sweet orange juice, Casey uses a dry orange liqueur and infuses the scotch with spices like cassia and clove, as well as dried orange peel. The complexity deepens with Suze, Bénédictine and Verdelho Madeira, giving the drink a dry, subtly smoky finish.